Guidelines for training repeat sprint ability

Repeat sprint ability (RSA) is one of the most important physical capacities in soccer. Although the following research study abstract examines RSA with cycling there are applications to others RSA sports that involve running like rugby and soccer. This study used repeated sprint bouts of 6 seconds and looked at performance decrements. From a metabolic perspective a 6 second effort is pretty close to a 45m sprint on grass starting from a standstill. That’s pretty long for soccer athletes and perhaps not super realistic to the RSA demands of the game (more like 20-30m would be more realistic and even then only for very short periods of a game). Nonetheless there are some important takeaways:
  • Testing should be done to examine different athletes ability to resist fatigue in repeated sprint bouts. This is something I do with a protocol that isn’t too different than the one used in this study and has shown up in several other studies examining RSA. I do a test of 6 x 30m sprints with electronic timing with a 30 second rest period between efforts. I like at time differentials, fatigue index, average time and fastest time. 
  • Ideally, different athletes should receive different volumes to maximize training effect. This is something I always do with my Track & Field and winter sport athletes but rarely do in soccer or team sports in general for that matter. I’ve found it’s logistically quite difficult and guys don’t want to be singled out for doing less or more. If you’re training a soccer athlete individually though this might be very useful.
J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):1918-24. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e075a3.

Performance and fatigue during repeated sprints: what is the appropriate sprint dose?

Morin JB, Dupuy J, Samozino P.


Laboratory of Exercise Physiology, University of Saint-Etienne, PRES Lyon, France.


When testing the ability of sportsmen to repeat maximal intensity efforts, or when designing specific training exercises to improve it, fatigue during repeated sprints is usually investigated through a number of sprints identical for all subjects, which induces a high intersubject variability in performance decrement in a typical heterogeneous group of athletes (e.g., team sport group, students, and research protocol volunteers). Our aim was to quantify the amplitude of the reduction in this variability when individualizing the sprint dose, that is, when requiring subjects to perform the number of sprints necessary to reach a target level of performance decrement. Fifteen healthy men performed 6-second sprints on a cycle ergometer with 24 seconds of rest until exhaustion or until 20 repetitions in case no failure occurred. Peak power output (PPO) was measured and a fatigue index (FI) computed. The variability in PPO decrement was compared between the 10th sprint and the sprint at which subject reached the target FI of 10%. Individual FI values after the 10th sprint were 14.6 ± 6.9 vs. 11.1 ± 1.2%, when individualizing the sprint dose, which corresponded to coefficients of interindividual variability of ∼47.3 and ∼10.8%, respectively. Individualizing the sprint dose substantially reduced intersubject variability in performance decrement, enabling a more standardized state of fatigue in repeated-sprints protocols designed to induce fatigue and test or train this specific repeated-sprint ability in a heterogeneous group of athletes. A direct feedback on the values of performance parameters is necessary between each sprint for the experimenter to set this individualized sprint dose.

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Mike Young

Director of Performance at Athletic Lab
Mike is the Head Fitness Coach for the North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC. He is also the owner and Director of Performance at Athletic Lab sports performance training center. He previously served as the fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carolina Railhawks. He has a PhD in Biomechanics, an MS in Coaching Science, and a BSS in Exercise Physiology and has coached Olympic and professional athletes in Skeleton, Track & Field, MLS and NASL Soccer, PGA Golf, NFL Football, MLB Baseball and Olympic Weightlifting. He has lectured around the world and authored 2 books and dozens of research and coaching articles.